Schu wants Nationals batters to be more aggressive
Washington's new hitting coach empathizes with dismissed Eckstein
WASHINGTON -- Rick Schu was in Jupiter, Fla., watching the Gulf Coast Nationals when he received a call from Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo to join the coaching staff and replace Rick Eckstein as the team's hitting coach. Schu didn't hesitate and reported to Nationals Park late Tuesday morning.
Schu said he understood what Eckstein was going through. Eckstein was let go because Washington's offense was not productive. The team was near the bottom of almost every offensive category.
"I've been in this business for 32 years and I've been in it as a player, a coach. I've been in the Major Leagues as a hitting coach and I know the pressures up here," Schu said. "I kind of heard grumblings, but I'm surprised. I know Rick real well. He is such a workaholic. He is a great hitting coach. I knew he worked hard. I didn't know that move would happen. When it did, I'm going to do what the organization asked me to do, whether it's hanging out in the Gulf Coast League, Triple-A or come to the big leagues, wherever Rizzo needs me."
When Schu was asked about his hitting philosophy, it sounded similar to manager Davey Johnson's.
"I want to be aggressive, I want to hunt fastballs. Keep it simple. I would like to see us put the ball in play a little bit more," Schu said. "We have four teams in first place in the Minor Leagues. It's not about being more talented, I think it's just committing to the team's concept -- moving runners, putting the ball in play with two strikes, grinding at-bats. That's what this team is capable of doing. We just have to get back to it."
Schu, who was a roving hitting instructor for the Nationals, has preexisting relationships with Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Steve Lombardozzi and Roger Bernadina. He will also draw on relationships with Chad Tracy and Scott Hairston gained during their days together with the D-backs. Schu has also worked closely with numerous other Nationals hitters during the last four Spring Trainings.
"What I remember, he was the type of hitting coach who wouldn't say a lot right away because he wanted to get to know you as a player and as a person, which is a quality that is good to have," Hairston said. "He made an effort to also make you feel good as a hitter. He was very positive."
Zimmerman, Johnson offer takes on Braun suspension
WASHINGTON -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun were picked back-to-back in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
Zimmerman, the fourth overall pick, and Braun, the fifth pick, have gone on to become the faces of their respective franchises. They've appeared in All-Star games together and won Silver Slugger Awards in the same year. So when asked about Braun's decision to accept a suspension through the remainder of the 2013 season for violations of Major League Baseball's joint drug prevention and treatment program, Zimmerman had plenty to say.
"I think everyone as a whole is happy now that this is getting out of the game because it makes the game better," he said before Tuesday's game against the Pirates. "It takes it back to what the game used to be. Sure, you might not have guys hitting 80 home runs in a season -- well, Chris Davis might -- but I think that's the whole point of it. When somebody hits 40 home runs, that's hard to do. Before, [in] the last 10 years, 40 home runs was nothing. There were six, seven guys hitting 40 home runs every year. It's not supposed to be like that."
Zimmerman said that the news of Braun's suspension was unfortunate because "nobody likes to see bad things happen to people that they know," but that he isn't the one most affected by performance-enhancing substances.
"I think the frustration, and rightfully so, [is from] the guys that are the 24, 25th guy on the roster and in and out of the big leagues," he said. "That could drastically change their career. I think those kind of guys that have been clean and done it the right way, compared to those kind of guys that weren't, those are the guys that are frustrated."
Manager Davey Johnson also offered his take.
"I came up in that era where we didn't need any supplements because we couldn't even lift weights. Guys taking supplements to recover, that's all I knew about it," he said. "It's the rules. You abide by the rules. … I'm glad it's over with."
Zimmerman said that he is "110 percent" behind MLB's efforts to clean up the game and puzzled by already good players, like Braun, who still feel the need to take banned substances.
"It's unfortunate for the game, and most importantly I think the fans," he said. "To a certain extent, I think the fans kind of knew at some point what was going on. I think a lot of people probably knew, but it was exciting and it just kind of snowballed. But I think now the fans are realizing that pure baseball is a lot more exciting, it involves a little bit more strategy, stealing bases, doing the little things and not just waiting for guys to hit 70 home runs a year. So in the long run, I think the fans will enjoy it more."
Detwiler to see back specialist in Los Angeles
WASHINGTON -- Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler was scheduled to go to Los Angeles on Tuesday evening to see back specialist Robert Watkins on Wednesday. Detwiler, who has been on the disabled list since early July, has been experiencing back issues since mid-May.
Manager Davey Johnson acknowledged that the team may not see Detwiler pitch for quite a while.
"[The doctors] have done a lot of tests. I think they want to get another opinion because they are not sure exactly what's reoccurring," Johnson said.
Detwiler first sustained tightness in his lower back May 15 against the Dodgers. The last time Detwiler had a bullpen session was three days ago and he couldn't do a lot of running.
Detwiler has been on the DL twice this season because of the back issues. With Detwiler expected to be out, the Nationals have to decide who could be their fifth starter. Taylor Jordan, who's in the rotation, is on an innings limit this year because of Tommy John surgery he had in September 2011.
Johnson would consider giving Ross Ohlendorf more starts. The veteran righty has been successful as a long man and will start against the Mets on Friday.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Schad. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.